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Community engagement and the promotion of sustainable diets

March 05, 2021
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

Rebecca Ramsing, Kenjin Bryan Chang, Zoé Mistrale Hendrickson, Zhe Xu , Madison Friel, Ellen Calves

Decreasing the consumption of meat and dairy has been identified as an effective strategy for protect­ing the health of humans and the planet. More specifically, transitioning to diets that are lower in animal-source foods and higher in fruits, vegeta­bles, legumes, and whole grains offers a promising opportunity to better align consumer behaviors with contemporary nutritional and ecological goals. However, given the limited understanding of how these changes in dietary behaviors can be best promoted, there is a need to explore the merits of community-based approaches to meat reduction and their capacity to advance more sustainable practices of eating at the individual, household, and community levels. To address this gap in the litera­ture, we surveyed more than 100 American house­holds participating in a community wide, 12-week-long Meatless Monday challenge and tracked the changes in their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and food choices over a nine-month period. The case study provided herein highlights a number of key findings from our evaluation. Most notably, our results demonstrate the value of community-based efforts in initiating and maintaining dietary behav­ior change and provide preliminary insights into the unique roles of multilevel interventions and diverse stakeholder engagement in promoting healthier, more sustainable diets.